Beverly Cleary is known and loved for her books that appeal to young readers. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and The Mouse and the Motorcycle are just two of the titles that have remained popular through multiple generations.
In her memoir, A Girl from Yamhill, Cleary talks about her early life, first on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, then in Portland. Cleary was an only child, and her stories of small town life are punctuated by the adults she spent most of her time with—her parents, her grandparents, and the characters that lived in the town of Yamhill.
In Portland, Cleary enters grade school and finally has other children to play with. Her tales of growing up in the 1920s, then living through the early years of The Great Depression, are full of rich details that are sure to fascinate both young (ages 12 and up) readers and adults about this time in the past.
Cleary’s memories of school and teachers should provide great conversations between moms and daughters about what education was like in the early part of the last century, versus what parents today experienced, compared to what current students encounter. Cleary’s relationship with her parents is also good for discussion as a look at how parents communicated with children then and now.
A Girl from Yamhill is not a thrilling read; instead it’s a delightful meander through the people and times that were important to Cleary. It’s also a revealing look at lifestyle differences between her era and ours, and it gives insight into events that sparked her desire to be a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs.
In honor of Cleary’s 95th birthday, the New York Times Book Review featured an article on her writing and her life that talks about her enduring legacy as a writer. Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/books/review/profile-of-beverly-cleary.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2